Father Andrew Damick

The unique life, tragic death and legacy of Father Matthew Baker

As a high-school dropout, Matthew Baker worked the graveyard shift at a gas station because he wanted time to read. 

So he read for seven years, digging into philosophy, literature, history and poetry. This helped steer him away from his teen-aged atheism and eventually towards Orthodox Christianity and the priesthood. He never graduated from college. 

But there was marriage and a large family to love. Then a seminary accepted Baker and then another, leading to a Master of Divinity from St. Tikhon's Orthodox Seminary in Pennsylvania and a Master of Arts from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Massachusetts. This led to Fordham University doctoral work in theology, history and philosophy and a dissertation that was nearly done, allowing him to finally be ordained in 2014 and, this January, to move to his first parish. 

Then the 37-year-old Baker died on March 1, when the family minivan crashed off a snowy road after evening prayers at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Norwich, Conn. His six children -- ages 2 to 12 -- were not seriously injured. His wife Katherine was home, still recovering from a recent miscarriage. 

"This isn't just a tragic story. It's several tragic stories," said Father Andrew Stephen Damick of St. Paul Orthodox Church in Emmaus, Pa., whose family shared a backyard with the Bakers in seminary. "You can write so many headlines on this story and they're all true."